It’s safe to say that there are many people out there in the world (myself included) who have always lived under the belief that the age of 30 is considered the cut-off as to when we should be married, ready to have children, and can no longer do the things we used to when we were younger. We can’t run as fast, lift as much, stay up as late, etc. It also seems to be the cut-off where we think that we can’t really change anything about our lives. We are who we are, and that’s the way life is going to be until the day it ends.
A good friend of mine brought this belief to my attention, and that’s when I realized how much I invested my own belief in it. I have been stressing myself out as a single, 25 year old woman, thinking that I am running out of time to find someone to spend the rest of my life with, thinking that I only have five years to get married and start a family. I’ve had my heart broken twice in the past year and a half and joined dating sites to try and get myself out there, because I’ve been so stuck in this idea that my time to do so is running short. But why did I believe it so strongly?
As I thought more about it, I realized that our society has adopted the idea as a whole. So often on TV, in movies, and in our own lives, we are seeing people as young as the age of 21 falling in love, getting married, and starting a family not too long afterwards. The thought that someone younger than us finding eternal love and happiness while we are struggling to do so is discouraging, and only further ingrains the idea in our heads that we may be running low on time. Now, this is not to say that the fact that this is happening for young people is a bad thing. I do, in actuality, envy them. After losing love myself, I want nothing more than to find it again because of how wonderful it feels. I have a vast amount of friends who found their forever mate in college and are now either married or engaged to be. Some of them are expecting their first child or have one or two children already, all before the age of 26. This makes so many of us in our early 20s feel like we are falling behind the expectation, or like there’s something wrong with us because we haven’t made it there yet.
I’m here to tell you to STOP thinking that. I’m here to tell myself to stop thinking that.
There is no set deadline as to when this is supposed to happen. For one thing, worrying about it may cause you to rush into something because of this idea that you don’t have much time left, and it won’t end up lasting, leaving you looking for it all over again. For another, it’s just stupid! Love takes time, and if you don’t go about it with the attention that it needs, it will suffer. Plus, while finding someone to spend your life with is important, what’s more important is making sure that your life in its individuality is enough to make you happy. If it’s not, you need to do that before you worry about bringing in someone else. And it is okay to take as much time as you need to do that, because again, your age has nothing to do with when or how this should happen.
The other side of the belief is that once you’ve hit that 30-year mark, your life has hit a plateau and will become a monotonous day-to-day routine that you cannot change, because 30 is “too old” to do anything else except be a mom or dad with a job and children to take care of. This belief is also a load of BS.
The same friend who brought this idea to my attention was kind enough to contribute her own “screw you” story to this stupid belief, and I really loved what she had to say:
“Last week, a friend of mine shared a post on Facebook about her 38 year old, full-time engineer, mother of four, sister-in-law who recently placed first for women and 6th overall in a marathon in Salt Lake City. My friend was congratulating her sister-in-law for this accomplishment, but also thanking her for the reminder that our mid 20s don’t have to be the peak time of our lives. This post got me thinking about my own life. I’m 35, a full-time special education teacher, and a mother of two. The internet is filled with blogs (mostly written by people much younger than me) about all the things you’re supposed to stop doing or wearing at a certain age. These blogs suggest that 30 is old and nothing new or fun can happen beyond 30. I mean, sure, I get tired staying out past 10:00pm on the weekends and drinking three beers in a night will now give me a headache in the morning. And, it’s true that I’m much more content staying home on the weekends, bingeing on Netflix, and spending time with my husband. But, as I mentioned earlier, I’m 35 with two kids and a full-time job. That’s a lot of fucking work, people! Fortunately, I also happen to be happily married for the last 11 years, so that makes staying home on the weekends a lot more fun. But, none of these things mean that I can’t try new things or reinvent myself now that I’ve become a member of the “over 30” crowd. I started thinking of all the things that I started doing after I turned 30, and hopefully I can spread some hope to the “under 30” crowd that you can grow up, start adulting, and still enjoy life. *Disclaimer, none of these are at the Eat, Pray, Love/wild level, so lower your expectations*:
- I started running. 5ks were trendy and everyone seemed to be doing them, so I thought, “What the hell?” Turns out, running is stupid hard, especially when you have asthma. But I downloaded the couch to 5k app, got some fairly decent shoes, and started preparing for the Brookfield Zoo 5k. I was proud of myself for choosing to run (despite not being chased by zombies) and working through shin splints, sore muscles, and feeling that I was going to pass out and die at any given moment during my run. It felt rewarding to push myself to do something difficult and find success in it. This lasted one whole summer. Then I decided running was overrated and moved on to not running, which was way more fun.
- I taught myself how to crochet. I love watching TV. It’s what I do to relax and turn my mind off at the end of the day. But I really needed something to do while I binge watched Parks and Rec for the third time (and playing Candy Crush Saga was pretty soul-sucking). I have a few friends and family that were always crocheting such cute hats and stuffed animals and I wanted to get in on that. So, for Christmas, I asked for crochet hooks and taught myself how to crochet. I realize that some view knitting and crocheting as an “old lady” habit, but, whatever, I can make stuff out of yarn and you can’t. But in all seriousness, there’s major satisfaction derived from teaching yourself a new skill and using that skill to create something.
- I took dance class! In kindergarten I took ballet, but only one class. I thought it was boring, though I’m pretty sure it was a bit pricey for my parents at the time. My sister ended up being the dancer in the family and danced from age five to adulthood. I got to watch her dance at recitals and competitions and realized how much I really love dance. In high school, I was a cheerleader and eventually a pom, so I got to do some dancing at a real basic level. Now, my daughter is dancing and her studio started offering adult dance classes. Sign me up! The first class was a ballet/lyrical combo and I loved it. I might not have any technique to speak of, but I got the basic idea and enjoyed getting some much needed exercise while still having fun (see: running). This summer I’ve been taking tap. I’ve always wanted to take a tap class and was not going to pass up this opportunity. I’m the only one in the class of four who has never taken a tap class before, but I love the challenge. I also learned the importance of the saying, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I’m getting quite good at it. Faking it, that is.
- I challenged myself to read 50 books in a year. This one I’m still working on. The closest I’ve ever gotten is 47 books in a year (I read ten books that summer alone!). I love reading and found that I was reading less and less as life got busy. When I started working in DeKalb, I discovered audiobooks and began listening to books on the way to work (it totally counts!). There are just so many books and so little time to read them all. Challenging myself has made me a little pickier about what I read, too. I no longer waste my time finishing a book just to say I finished it when I could be reading something amazing instead.
- I took time for myself. When I first got married, I didn’t have a full-time teaching job and was subbing. In the beginning, being a substitute led to a lot of days home alone waiting for my husband and pathetically codependent. Eventually, I got a full-time job and became busier. Then we started having kids (all two of them) and I realized how I never had any alone time anymore. I love my husband and kids, but I wanted to make sure that I kept my own identity as a person and not just be known as someone’s wife or mother. So I try to make sure that I’m making my own plans to go out with my friends, shop alone, get a pedicure, or just shut myself up in my room for 30 minutes to watch Parks and Rec (it’s seriously the best) so that I can take a break from life and be the best me I can be. The best advice I can give a new or a stressed out mom is: what’s good for mama is good for the baby. When we’re stressed out or unhappy, our families see that and can feed off that. Taking care of myself is one of the most important things I can do to take care of my family.
Things I’m still working on as an adult:
- Talking to strangers, both in person and on the phone (the struggle is real)
- Backing out of my driveway and not looking like an ass (it’s angled and stupid)
- Going to bed at a reasonable hour on a work night (getting up early is the worst)
- Regularly exercising and eating healthy (ugh!)
- Remembering pretty much anything not written down
- Being politically informed and up to date on current events (it’s just so boring!)
- Spending less time on my phone (FOMO is a real thing)
- Spelling (sp?)
I’m proud of myself for trying new things and branching out. It’s easy to become complacent and get bogged down by the monotony of our daily lives. Boring can be good sometimes, but I strive to try new things every now and again. I’m halfway through my 30s and I definitely haven’t peaked yet. That makes me happy 🙂 ” — Andrea S.
All of what she had to say is absolutely true. Your 20s are not your peak time, and who was the boss man/woman who decreed that they were? No takers? EXACTLY. This idea has somehow become almost like a law that we all unintentionally follow, and I am so glad that Andrea brought this to my attention so that I could stop conforming to it and enjoy my solitude while I have it. I actually saw a video on Facebook today of a man in his 50s who is more ripped and built than the majority of the male friends my age that work out on a daily basis. His reason for continuing to work out in his 50s? Age doesn’t define your ability if you believe that you are capable. And let me tell you, the videos of this man exercising had me in awe and feeling an immense amount of respect for him (in addition to feeling super inadequate in comparison to his massive muscles).
My overall point in writing this post is this: stop thinking that you need to accomplish certain life milestones by a particular age. Stop thinking that you are “too old” to try new things, no matter how difficult, once that age passes. Stop thinking that you are “too old” to reinvent yourself once that age passes. The way I see it, if you don’t see a certain age where you expect to “peak” or an age by which you expect all of these milestones to be reached, then you will live your life constantly exploring, growing, and discovering new things about yourself. It is never, ever too late to find love, to learn a new skill, or to build off of yourself and make yourself stronger, deeper, and more well-rounded. And if you ask me, that sounds a hell of a lot more fun than peaking and then living the life of monotony into which so many people fall because they invest so much in this belief. Go against the grain. Do the unexpected. Have faith in yourself and in the universe, God, or whatever you believe in to give you the things you seek when it’s the right time for them to appear, and have faith in yourself to never settle. Keep growing. Keep exploring. Do not let your age define you. Do not let your age hold you back from becoming the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.